redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive: Mardi Gras in NOLA | A Conversation with Amy C. Collins of Pig & Vine

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Today’s Taste Maker Exclusive:

Mardi Gras in NOLA: A Conversation with Amy C. Collins of Pig & Vine

Amy C. Collins of Pig & Vine first caught my attention at WBC16. As a fellow presenter, she blew the rest of us away with her brilliantly hysterical, self-deprecating, seemingly effortless and extemporaneous presentation about her path to wine writing.

Mind you, she had mildly mentioned the fact that she was presenting only a day or two earlier at another event we’d both attended at M2 Wines. Mentioned, but did not elaborate. No elaboration needed. Once she hit the stage, she owned it.

As a wine writer based in New Orleans, I thought it only fitting to invite her to strut her stuff here on Mardi Gras. Enjoy – and feel free to leave your thoughts below~cheers!

r/T™:  Not many people can claim their path to wine started in Blowing Rock, NC. Any favorite memories from that time and place as you discovered your interest in wine? 

ACC: Those were the college years when everything was possible and we had our whole lives ahead of us. My favorite memory might be the feeling that I could do and be anything. Sadly, I have no memory of specific wines.

r/T™:  Any favorite wine makers, wine regions, and or memorable wines that stand out, and/or inspired you to keep going?

ACC:  There have certainly been standouts over the years, wines that have made me swoon, winemakers who’ve thrown a good party, and pretty much every region I’ve visited makes me want to go back, but also seek out others. I guess a general curiosity and pleasure as guiding principals have kept me going.

r/T™:  It seems that ‘thirst’ for wine also led you to some important mentors along the way. After college, you moved to NYC, where you eventually ended up working for Daniel Johnnes, renown Burgundy expert and mastermind behind Le Paulée NYC/SF. How did that happen? Anything you learned from him that still resonates today? Any favorite memories from time in the trenches with him?

ACC:  After 9/11 I went to work waiting tables at Blue Ribbon Bakery in the West Village. The general structure there was that you worked three doubles a week and had four days off, so with all that free time I decided to pursue the WSET Diploma. I was very fortunate to have some amazing women in my class and study group (four of them are now MWs). When I casually mentioned one day I was thinking about getting a job selling wine, they eagerly set me up with interviews. I believe it was Mark Lauber who referred me to Daniel because he’d just hired a couple of reps at Lauber Imports. I guess Daniel liked me, because when I declined his offer to take a job at Wildman instead, he called to ask me to reconsider working with him. I was flattered and said yes. 

Daniel and his then sales manager, now proprietor of his own accomplished distribution/importation company David Bowler, taught me the who’s who of upper echelon French and German producers. I was part of the team for two NYC La Paulées, though not much help I’m afraid. More decoration and punch lines than in the trenches on that one. But I got to taste incredible Burgundies with decades of age. It was mind-blowing.  I met New York’s top somms and buyers at that time, many of whom later became my customers and friends.

So much happened in the year I worked for Daniel it’s near impossible to whittle down to a single highlight or two. Though I suppose tasting 1985 Chave with Jean-Louis, Allain Graillot and the late Didier Dagenau in Chave’s cellar was pretty epic. Of course not one of them would remember me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

r/T™:  Talk about your path to wine writing in general, and in particular – how did you end up leaving NYC for first Alabama, and now NOLA? Any culture shocks that stand out?

ACC:  Actually I left NYC for Buenos Aires, Argentina, then landed in Alabama. Culture shock? Yes, all of it! The first step was to move away from sales and New York. I felt that I wasn’t creating anything, just making money. I wouldn’t mind having some of that money again, but that’s another conversation. Argentina was an unwinding period for me and a welcome change, but after a year I was ready to go stateside. I’d sold all my belongings except for what I could fit into two suitcases, and didn’t have a job or apartment in New York. More important, I didn’t want to go back to New York, so I went to my mother’s in Florence, Alabama. I figured I’d take a couple of months to collect myself, then move west to Austin, Texas, or Portland, Oregon. Then she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said, “You’ve been talking about being a writer for 16 years, why don’t you just stay here and write?” I lived with her, cooked our meals, did the shopping, planted a garden, made some art, read a ton, and learned how to write. Before long people started paying me to write.

I started Pig&Vine in 2012 as a food and wine blog, posting daily, cooking and writing recipes, constantly. I made it my job and was determined to make it pay financially, which I now find amusing. The blog has gone through some transformations over the years, and it’s going through another right now, which is very exciting.

r/T™:  Talk about your foray into radio on Pig & Vine  – least/most favorite thing(s) you like about doing radio vs. writing? Anything you’ve learned that surprises you? Any ‘dream’ guest you’d like to have on the show?

ACC:  The Radio element is a podcast, sort of a sister project to Pig&Vine where I can integrate my love of real conversation. Drinking wine is also a priority activity so marrying the two was a no brainer. Pig&Vine Radio is a way for me to explore subjects other than wine, like music, art, science, and how to be human, while drinking wine. I was surprised to learn that I have a natural NPR voice, or so I’ve been told. Radio is much easier than writing. In conversation, you can stumble over words and convey meaning and context with tone and delivery, especially when there’s someone on the other microphone responding in real time.

Favorite guests? Gosh, I’ll dream big and say Patti Smith, Mary Karr, Lena Dunham would be a trip…I’d like to ask Warren Buffet about balancing humanness with profit margin. But not one of those people drink alcohol, so I’ll have to figure out a loop-hole when they come calling.

r/T™:  As an admitted INTJ, “heavy on the J”,  would you say your career has been less analytical chess game, and more organic improv? How does ‘constructive cruelty’ inform your blog?

ACC:  Definitely more organic improv, gut-feeling. I’ve never had a five-year plan. But I’m also very thoughtful and deliberate about the decisions I make. Some might say I over-think the options.

Constructive cruelty was a group formed by some fellow bloggers I met at the Bloggers Conference last summer to give each other feedback on our respective blogs. I am very open to constructive criticism and they had great perspective and good suggestions. You cannot evolve as a human if you’re not willing to listen. The last thing I want to become is a fascist over my tiny insignificant corner of the web.

r/T™:  Besides Woody Allen, any other inspirations for the incisive humor that runs through your work? 

ACC:  Woody Allen is an influence more because I over-think and worry the way his characters do, and that amuses me. And my mother. She loves to give me a hard time about it. I don’t know what inspires my humor. The absurdity of life, I guess. We humans really are a ridiculous lot.

r/T™:  Besides Pig and Vine,  where can folks find your work?

ACC:  Well, I do have a “professional” writer site,, and occasionally I remember to update the blog with new work. I write most of the stories for fashion designer Billy Reid’s blog, The Journal. That gig has allowed me to interview a lot of cool folks, which has certainly helped to hone my skills for the podcast. I have a few pending projects for publications I admire, but I don’t want to list them until the pieces are actually published.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers that we haven’t touched on?

ACC:  Yes, please subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates on new posts and new podcast episodes. Then download Pig&Vine Radio from iTunes and leave a glowing review.

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience as a wine writer has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

ACC:  That it’s incredibly difficult to be relevant and interesting. There’s nothing new to say about wine, so the magic has to be in the saying. Crossing the divide between non-wine people and wine people is even harder, and the risk of talking into an echo chamber is real. Since hosting a podcast has helped me to stop cringing at the sound of my own voice, I worry the melodious reverb will be my eventual demise.

All images provided and reprinted by permission of Amy C. Collins.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

red Thread™ Exclusive: Manuel Louzada | Arínzano – Navarra, ES

red Thread™ Exclusive: Manuel Louzada | Arínzano – Navarra, ES

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Manuel Louzada | Arínzano | Navarra, Spain

“Singular terroir, estate character, noble pedigree.”

Sometimes a winery doesn’t just surprise you – it knocks you on your palate.

I discovered such a winery by happy accident while tasting wines from another country (Achaval-Ferrer of Argentina). Those wines lassoed me with their voluptuousness, verve, and vibrancy. Turns out the same team, part of the Stoli Group empire,  purchased an artisan winery in Spain in 2015.

Today we talk to CEO and wine maker Manuel Louzada about his Navarra venture Arínzano, the first Vino de Pago designated winery in Northern Spain.

For those of you unfamiliar with Arínzano, the winery soon goes full gaucho here in the United States as it accepts Champion Best of Show saddle prize  for the Arínzano 2010 Gran Vino Chardonnay at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition award ceremony on Sunday, February 26, 2017. This event marks the first time in the competition’s fourteen-year history that a white wine emerges the winner, and the first time that the winner hails from Spain.

Clearly, something is goin’ on down on the Pago…as Manuel Louzada shares here.

r/T™:  Arínzano is Northern Spain’s first Vino de Pago certified vineyard, Spain’s highest category for winemaking, above D.O.Ca. Can you explain to readers the exhaustive requirements necessary to achieve this certification, including climate, terroir, and winemaking? Why was it so important to Arínzano to achieve Vino de Pago certification?

ML:  First, the Spanish Wine Classification is regulated by law and extremely strict, approved as well by the EEC (European Economic Community). In this particular case, the law 24/2003 de la Viña y del Vino contains the Wine Classification, which resembles a sort of hierarchical pyramid, from the Vino de Mesa (which has a wide source of grapes, being the least exclusive) to the highest, most exclusive both in quality and availability, as it comes from a single property, Vino de Pago (from the Latin pagus, determined district of agricultural land, mainly vineyards).

The Vinos de Pago have to go through exactly the same exhaustive requirements as the D.O.Ca, like La Rioja or Priorat. To start, vineyards must be located in a limited area and produce wines which have to be made and bottled in the region and before being release to the market submitted to the control organizations – Consejo Regulador, INTIA and EEC in the case of the D.O.Ca, while INTIA and EEC for the Vinos de Pago – so that these wines are authorized to be sold.

To achieve the Vino de Pago category, you have to demonstrate to the most important public organizations, INTIA and EEC, the uniqueness and exclusivity of your terroir, through a highly extensive in-depth study of soil and climate. Once this is proven, you have the obligation to produce wine for ten years and submit for organoleptic and physical-chemical analysis. This is not only to demonstrate consistency but, most importantly, to demonstrate that the wine has unique and singular characteristics. As you can see, it is not a simple process. On top of this, if at some point during that 10-year process—since you are the only representative—the wine does not reach the established standards for characteristics or the quality you risk losing this particular appellation.

The founding goal of Arínzano wines is to reflect the uniqueness and exclusivity of the amazing terroir where the different vineyards have been planted, therefore it was a natural evolution to become the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain.

r/T™  The history of Arínzano reads like something out of a Gabriel García Márquez novel – a noble estate founded in the eleventh century by Sancho Fortuñones de Arínzano, selected by another nobleman in the 1600’s for the site of a palace. Over time, the estate lapses into ruin, only to be rediscovered in 1988. Today, in addition to its Vino de Pago certification, it’s the only vineyard in Spain certified by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for environmental responsibility. Can you briefly touch on the efforts Arínzano has made in four critical areas, and why the WWF is so important to Arínzano?

NOTE: The four critical areas:

  1. The conservation and restoration of the natural environment:  half of the estate is reserved for indigenous flora and fauna.
  2. Organic viticulture with a low-environmental impact, and integrated pest control.
  3. Use of only certified environmental materials in the construction of the winery.
  4. Natural waste water filtration through a series of lagoons.

ML:  Indeed, the history of Arínzano is fantastic. In some parts of Spain, the presence of vineyards was naturally tied to the economic situation of the area, especially in such a naturally rich region. During the least favorable economic conditions, some vineyards were uprooted to plant cereal grains, to feed the population, while when the economic conditions improved, vineyards were planted to enjoy wine, which was always recognized for its exceptional quality, with the locally produced foods. I believe that these cycles influenced the fact of having not vineyards in the property which led to its re-discovery in 1988. When you have in your hands such a magnificent estate, with incredible natural conditions, you feel immediately compelled to concentrate all your efforts to permanently take care of the environment. The fact that we have been recognized by the WWF is the result of all the daily efforts in the above mentioned areas. As a result, all the team is extremely proud and you can easily sense this difference when seeing the vegetal and animal diversity or the natural conditions of the Ega River.

r/T™:  Arínzano lies in northwestern Navarra, in a valley formed by the last slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. It comprises 355 hectares – 128 dedicated to Vino de Pago certified vineyards. Soils include loams, sand, limestones, limonites, gypsum and dolomites. Both marine and Ega River influences impact the climate, and the region enjoys over 2500 hours of sunlight annually.

Talk about the varietals you’ve chosen to cultivate here, and how the mélange of soil types and microclimates impact the unique wines created at Arínzano.

When applying for the Vino de Pago Classification, we understood one of the most significant particularities of this magnificent property is the diversity of its microclimates. The grape varieties were chosen by taking into account the type of soil and the overall climatic conditions as well as the movements of the Cierzo wind (a cold and dry wind coming from the North) through the property, the orography of the mountains, and finally the proximity of the Ega River, which translates into a milder climate. The Chardonnay, for example, was planted in the higher parts of the property with very poor and superficial soils but optimal limestone. The temperature there is colder as the result of the combination of higher elevation and the Cierzo influence. On the opposite is the Merlot, which is planted in slightly richer soils, protected from the wind by the Populus trees and benefitting from the naturally milder, slightly more humid conditions generated by the Ega River.

r/T™. Do any of Arínzano’s production methods differ from other wineries in Spain? If so, how?

ML:  At Arínzano, we are convinced that the style of our wines must reflect the terroir where they come from. Starting almost two years ago my team, Diego Ribbert and José Manuel Rodriguez, and I dedicated our lives to understand each and every individual character of the Arínzano vineyards throughout all the vegetative cycle. We decided the most appropriate moment of harvest by walking each plot of vineyard and adopted the most appropriate winemaking technique to express and, if possible, help enhance the magnificent virtues of this terroir. Finally, the choice of barrels, only French, is in line with the wines obtained and the pursued style of the wine. The wines aging in barrel are tasted monthly to follow their evolution and to precisely decide when to blend and bottle.

In my opinion, on one hand, almost each and every winemaking technique has been discovered. On another hand, the majority of the high quality winemaking equipment is available for anyone. For me it is the importance of the terroir, the sensitivity to understand, protect and translate into the wine these particular characteristics together with maximum attention to details and handcrafted winemaking, as described before—this allows us to make the exceptional wines that we envision.

r/T™:   Both Arínzano and the Stoli Group winery in Argentina, Achaval-Ferrer, share certain unique similarities, viz., geographically challenging sites with diverse soils, complex microclimates, and culturally rich histories. Is acquiring Arínzano part of a deliberate strategy, part pure luck, or a combination of both?

ML:  Indeed, it is part of a deliberate strategy to have exclusively included in our portfolio so far such fantastic brands as Achaval-Ferrer and Arínzano. As a matter of fact, the characteristics mentioned in your question are the pillars to achieve exceptional wines and afterwards to allow the brands to grow as references in the world of wine amongst the highest reputed wines.

r/T™:   Arínzano employs a unique business model, a model which also includes luxury accommodations, tasting experiences, and cultural events. How have guests responded to these additional amenities? Do you have any upcoming events or amenities that particularly excite you?

ML:  Throughout my personal and professional experience, I have received continual feedback that after visiting the vineyards, walking the winery, talking to viticulturists and wine makers to have a sense of their work and tasting both the wines in barrel and from the bottle at the winery, visitors had a much more complete experience and stronger connection to the wine. I wholeheartedly agree and also firmly believe that, if all the visitors experience the same values at each and every moment of the visit, these will translate into a long-lasting memory.

One unique experience we are developing for a future visitor offering is a 3-day visit taking advantage of the San Fermines Festival timing in early July. We design a winery visit that allows time in the vineyards and the winery, to understand our artisanal winemaking philosophy, to taste the wines in barrel and from our wine library, while enjoying the most celebrated moment in Pamplona [the Running of the Bulls.] To date this is an experience for our global team and select journalists, which was so much fun throughout the visit last year that I’m very much looking forward to hosting the 2017 experience.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Arínzano?

ML:  First of all, I would very much like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain a little bit more about Vinos de Pago which, in my opinion, will soon be the future of Spanish Wine.

Secondly, and after all being said, I can only invite the readers to come to the property to live the complete Pago de Arínzano experience. As once someone I very much admire taught me “…it is not important to invite someone, it is important that the invitation has been accepted…”

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience as a winemaker and owner of world-class vineyards has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

ML:  I believe it has taught me almost everything I know. My personal background is not very typical for a winemaker… I’m the fourth generation of a family dedicated to the wine business. The first time that I have tasted wine was at the age of five, a tiny amount of Sparkling Wine from my family winery, Caves Messias, in the Bairrada region, which started my passion for wine. I studied in Spain and started my formal professional life in Portugal making Port Wine. Later I was invited to move to Argentina, to be in charge of Sparkling Wine of the most recognized producer, Chandon Argentina. Later, during my experience in Argentina, I was in charge of winemaking of all the wines production, Sparkling, Still and Iconic Still Wines, which allowed me to return to Spain and be in charge of Numanthia (Termanthia was one of the first five wines from Spain honored with 100 points by Robert Parker). Almost over two years ago, I took on a new challenge by assuming leadership of such a recognized brand like Achaval-Ferrer and one of the hidden jewels of Spain, the Vino de Pago de Arínzano*. With all this in mind, after studying winemaking and becoming passionate about making wines that reflect the terroir from where they originate, I have learned throughout each and every experience, especially with generous people equally willing to share their experiences.

Link to more information: Arínzano

*(NOTE: Outside the America market, the winery is referred to as Vino de Pago de Arínzano.)

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

 Thank you:

Manuel Louzada

Patricia Clough

BKWine Magazine: Tasting Roserock Drouhin Oregon Wines

BKWine Magazine: Tasting Roserock Drouhin Oregon Wines

BK WIne Magazine logo


Happy Valentine’s Day, all – here’s a sweet treat for you:

My latest feature in Paris-based BKWine Magazine: Tasting Roserock Drouhin Oregon Wines, Eola-Amity Hills.

And for those of you who prefer your tasting notes in Swedish, link here.

On another note, looking forward to attending the Jancis Robinson event at UC Davis moderated by Alder Yarrow of Vinography this Thursday, weather permitting…


Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

Custom Wine Labels | Vineyard & WInery Management Magazine

Custom Wine Labels | Vineyard & WInery Management Magazine

Dear Readers:

No, I have not forgotten about you – just  a bit busy juggling my writing life with our relocation from Seattle to the Monterey Peninsula while drowning in my new home state’s  drought-ending, creek-river-lake-and-sea swelling deluge.

But I did want to circle back and start cleaning up some loose ends left dangling prior to the move.

Here’s one:

It’s a link to my article published in the January-February issue of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine. The previous link led you to the site accessible to paid subscribers.

Enjoy – and thanks for your patience and understanding during our move – cheers!

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

This Month’s Taste Maker Exclusive Interview:

Amanda Barnes | Around the World in 80 Harvests

Wine journalist Amanda Barnes has done a lot in her very short life. A fellow presenter at last summer’s WBC16 in Lodi, CA., Amanda dazzled us all with her compelling, multi-media global harvest project Around the World in 80 Harvests.

We cross paths again at the upcoming  Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley in February. In the meantime, I thought you might like to learn more about this exceptionally talented Brit with an unquenchable thirst for South America and all points vinous.

r/T™:  While studying at King’s College in London, did you always want to write about wine, or do you recall a singular, defining moment when you realized you simply must write about the topic?

AB:  There was no eureka moment, just a gradual discovery of finding what I loved. I studied Literature because I always adored reading. I was actually already working as a journalist (I started writing for local newspapers when I was 16, two years before starting University) so I knew that writing was the direction I wanted to go.

Wine came after a few years later… I decided to learn about wine to ‘join the dots’ on two of my other great passions: food and travel. But then I discovered that wine encompasses everything I enjoy most in life: travel, gastronomy, nature, culture, people… Rather than joining the dots, it became the nuclei.

r/T™:  After university, you enjoyed a successful journalism career before debarking for South America. What possessed you to leave Britain for South America? What kept you invested in the region for so many years? I understand you dance a mean tango – any other skills you picked up from your adoptive continent? Do you have any favorite memories from South America that still resonate with you?

AB:  I felt that I wasn’t learning anything new at home anymore, there was always a new story of course but I felt I was covering the same ground as such. I love to learn, so my decision to move to South America was about personal growth and moving to a wine-producing region.

As for my relationship with South America, I was already hooked before I even arrived. I had completely fallen in love with South America from afar, mainly through Literature and culture, and when I arrived I felt perfectly at home. I love living between Argentina and Chile because I am at the heart of the South American wine scene, and it is the best way to understand the terroir – by living in among everything!

As for great South American memories, I have too many to mention. And as for great South American skills, too few to mention! I love to give it my best dancing tango but I’ll always have English hips… I will never be able to move like a true Latina, so I don’t even try to pretend! It’s the same story with my gringo accent – I sound embarrassing English in Spanish.

r/T™:  Your CV reads like that of a seasoned pro, including editor & creator of Around the World in 80 Harvests, your ambitious global wine and travel documentary showcasing eighty renown and off-the-beaten-track wine regions around the world. In it, you explore  people, places and culture through blogs, videos and photography. What spurred you to develop this project? It’s not a solo endeavor – how did you choose your team? How has it met/exceeded your expectations? Any goals still unmet?

AB:  The thirst for knowledge and learning is what drives me to do 80 Harvests. The world of wine is so fascinating, so rich and so diverse. I wanted to try to communicate that, and see the world of wine through the eyes of local producers – asking them to show us all why their place in the world, and their wine, is unique.

It is a community endeavor. The ‘team’ is very much all the winemakers and producers involved. Without their generous sharing of knowledge and experience, it would be an impossible project. And without readers and a community participating, it wouldn’t exist.

Every part of the journey has exceeded my expectations because there is something unexpected in each destination. The goal unmet is obviously the number of regions visited, I still have some 60 to go! By 2018 I should have completed the mission, but it is really about the journey rather than the end-goal.

r/T™:  You’re fresh off a “Born Digital Wine Awards 2016” win for “Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine.” Talk about your Born Digital Wine Award winning entry, why it’s important, and what this specific award means to you as a wine journalist?

AB:  Working freelance is quite a lonely career choice. You rarely get any feedback, you don’t really have colleagues, and it is hard to know if you are doing things right! So this award means a lot to me. It feels like a comforting pat on the back, and that is really motivating.

You share your expertise on South American wines in such publications as Decanter, The Drinks Business, The Telegraph, The Guardian Feature, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Guide, and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book Amanda the South America correspondent. Apparently, you and Hugh Johnson share an alma mater. Any mentors instrumental in helping develop your career as a wine journalist?

AB:  Do we?! I had no idea! I will google that later! I respect many writers but my mentors have really been wine producers. It is the time that winemakers and agronomists have spent with me that has provided me with the greatest growth, and inspired me to keep learning. There are numerous winemakers in Argentina and Chile who have been my greatest mentors.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Around the World in 80 Harvests specifically, or about your career as a wine journalist in general that you think is important for them to understand?

AB:  I would just like to invite readers to join me on the 80 Harvests journey. The project is about global community and meeting people and wine lovers around the world, so I would like to invite everyone to be part of it! If you love wine and want to know more about wine from around the world, it should be right up your street and I hope to you’ll join us.

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience as a wine journalist has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

that no matter where you are, the very best wines are those shared with others.

About the Author:

©80 Harvests
©80 Harvests

Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who has been living in South America since 2009. She has tried over 700 Malbecs and eaten over 600 Chilean oysters and still has a functioning liver and kidneys (as far as she knows). When she isn’t drinking wine or sipping oysters, she writes for wine and travel publications including Decanter and Fodor’s. She is currently on a mission to discover the world of wine as she travels ‘Around the World in 80 Harvests’.All images courtesy of Amanda Barnes and Around the World in 80 Harvests.

All images copyrighted #80Harvests and reprinted by permission of wine journalist Amanda Barnes.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Guest Wine Writer Series | № 11 | Susannah Gold | Falling in Love with The Douro

Guest Wine Writer Series | № 11 | Susannah Gold | Falling in Love with The Douro

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Continuing the Guest Wine Writer series I initiated in 2016, I’ve invited some of my fellow wine writers the opportunity to join me here on binNotes | red Thread™  each first Friday of every other month throughout  2017 to shine a light on a rare, obscure, or under-appreciated wine region for which they feel a special passion.

About Today’s  Guest Wine Writer:

I met Susannah Gold ‘virtually’ some years ago when I discovered her wine blog, where her enthusiasm for and expertise in Italian wine, people and culture proves a charismatic counterpoint to my ongoing, intellectually intense Francophilia.

When Susannah reached out to me last year about guest writing a piece on the Douro, a region outside her usual Italian ‘hood, I replied ‘subito!’ Please enjoy her ‘love at first sight’ account of Portugal’s seductive Douro Valley.

Guest Wine Writer Series | № 11 | Susannah Gold 

Falling In Love With The Douro Valley

by Susannah Gold

People say you never forget your first love. In terms of countries, Italy and France have always been on the top of my list,  but this past September I was again struck with that feeling. I had met a new love, the Douro Valley in Portugal. While not my first trip to Portugal, it was [my first] to the Douro, which made me believe you can really fall in love again at any age. I know I have with the Douro Valley.

What attracted me so to the region? Firstly, the striking landscapes, with terraced vineyards everywhere made of schist and granite. Named a Unesco world heritage site in 2001, the region is simply stunning. Secondly, it has a lot of history. In 1756, the Marquês of Pombal demarcated the Douro Valley, the first [wine] region in the world to be so designated. Producers showed us the stones from that demarcation.

Thirdly, it is an amazing place to visit for wine tourism, where there are small and big wineries happy to host you, allow you to taste their wines, and in many cases, participate in harvesting.  The Douro is a feast for the senses: the sound of the river everywhere you go, the beauty of the hills, the delicious foods and wines, the lagares – old-fashioned stone tanks that are still used to crush grapes give texture to your trip,  and more than anything else, the people.

Portugal was under strict authoritarian rule for much of the 20th century that left many areas of the country in a state of despair and many of the people grey. No longer. Portugal today is a much different place, filled with verve, excitement, and brimming with innovation.

People can’t wait to talk to you about their country. Still, there are many traditions that it holds dear as well. The combination of new and exciting projects with century old traditions is really what stuck with me, and made me yearn to discover the region even further.

Like many people, I always associated the Douro Valley only with stodgy English run Port wines houses, not with individual producers or still wines. Clearly, I didn’t know enough about the region. I attended a seminar last summer where they showed a film of the boat regatta in Porto. I love to sail, so the combination of the boat race plus the Port houses made me both salivate and want to visit immediately.

I wanted to see Porto and taste those gorgeous wines. I was not at all disappointed, and I think you won’t be either  – although hurry to get there soon. Travel and Leisure named Portugal one of its “top destinations” for travel this year.

Most still wines produced are blends made from the traditional port wine red varieties such as Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and white grapes Rabigato, Viosinho, Moscatel Galego and Malvasia Fina, among others. Few are making mono-varietal wines except from Touriga Nacional, which they are trying to make into their signature red grape variety, much as Carmenère has become to Chile, Malbec to Argentina, and Tannat to Uruguay. 

The Portuguese have significantly lowered their drinking per capita, as have most other European nations, and thus in order to sell their products, they must look abroad, which is great for us in the USA, because it means that more of their products will make it to our shores. At least I hope so.  I am excited to have access to more Portuguese wines and can’t wait for my next trip to the Douro.


About the Author:

Susannah Gold, one of a few non-Italians included in the esteemed Associazione Italiana dei Sommeliers (AIS), writes for The Financial Times, Gourmet Retailer, Food, Food & Beverage Business,, the Organic Wine Journal, the Sommelier Journal and GDO Week. A recognized authority on Italian wines, Susannah also pens her own international-focused wine blog,

Susannah’s prolific wine career spans over two decades, and includes work with some of the industry’s biggest consortium, institutions, importers, producers, and retailers, most notably as representative twice to the Prosecco DOC consortium on the Vinitaly US Tour.  Her numerous designations include a Diploma in Wines & Spirits (DWS) from the WSET, as well as CSW and CSS credentials from the Society of Wine Educators.

Story and images printed by permission of the author, Susannah Gold. 

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.


Dear Readers:

I’m currently in the throes of moving from the drizzly PacNW to my new home in sunny California…can’t wait to get back on track soon to share more stories about wine..the redThread™ that binds us all!


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